SpaceX, the private space exploration company founded by PalPal and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk, is ready to boldly go where no private company has legitimately attempted to go before: The International Space Station. (Live video of the rocket at Cape Canaveral in Florida is embedded above.)
In just a few hours at 1:55am Pacific Time (which is 4:55am Eastern time) Saturday morning, SpaceX will attempt to make the first ever privately-funded launch to head to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch will be made with its Falcon 9 rocket, which is set to deploy its Dragon capsule. As SpaceFlightNow has very clearly reported, this is a risky and unique proposition in many ways:
“SpaceX aims to launch its privately-built Dragon capsule Saturday aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, fly the craft to the International Space Station, and deftly approach the complex for astronauts to grab the free-flying satellite with a robot arm.
It is the first time a private company has attempted such a feat.”
Obviously it is a super ambitious and expensive endeavor, but the SpaceX company is very keen to remind people that this is still an experiment. After all, this is the first time that a non-government US entity has made a move to land on the International Space Station.
As SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told SpaceFlight Now: “We know this has been touted as a huge mission. We keep trying to say it’s a test. Nonetheless, it’s a big job.” The company has repeatedly emphasized to the press that this is “just a test flight.”
Indeed, it is possible that we could watch the Falcon 9 go down in flames. But of course, the smart people at SpaceX have clearly taken great care to make sure that is not the case here on Saturday’s launch. In any case, we’ll have to wait and see to be sure — and the high stakes are a part of the excitement of it all.
In a slightly larger lens, there is the hope that some of the newly-minted Facebook affiliated folks who acquired millions on Friday will opt to invest in projects that are nearly as interesting as Elon Musk’s endeavors. One can dream, at least.